Is it possible for a man to be a complete rock star, on the opposite side of the world, in a country he has never visited, and never know about it? For many South Africans, Sixto Rodriguez was a lot more than rock star. He was social icon; an outsider who was saying the things they wanted to say but simply could not. Searching for Sugar Man (2012), directed by Malik Bendjelloul, is an eye-opening, heart-touching documentary on the legend and mystery behind the man simply known as Rodriguez.
Searching for Sugar Man won the Best Documentary category at the 85th Academy Awards. Rodriguez opted not to attend the event because he did not want to overshadow, or take away from the creators of the film. This selfless gesture summarizes, on a few levels, the path of life chosen by Rodriguez, or, even, the path that he passed up.
While the sci-fi genre is typically reserved for high-stakes, big-budget action, director Denis Villeneuve’s latest, Arrival, stands apart from its peers. Villeneuve and writer Eric Heisserer instead opt for a wonderfully human and refreshingly grounded take on the alien invasion tale in what is one of the year’s absolute best films.
The film appropriately begins with an arrival, although not (yet) one of the alien variety, but instead one of childbirth. Over a couple minute’s time, through montage and monologue, we’re effectively introduced to the film’s lead, Louise Banks (Amy Adams), as she cradles her newborn daughter in the initial moments. We quickly move through the child’s life from infant to toddler to teenager, watching the loving relationship between mother and daughter grow before the child’s life is cut painfully short due to a rare illness. Arrival’s opening is intensely emotional, and also remarkable in its ability to give such depth to a character and her situation with so little time.
Below are three perspectives on the 2013 film Snowpiercer.
Sarah George Engine or tail; where do you belong on the train?
In 2013, Bong Joon-ho directed a film that received universal acclaim for keeping the audience on the edge of their seats. Snowpiercer is an action, drama, and science-fiction film that introduces viewers to a world where the lines between good and evil are blurred. Chris Evans portrays Curtis, the tail-section passenger determined to reach the front of the train. Jamie Bell plays Edgar, a young man who worships Curtis, but never seems to be able to impress him.
As the film progresses, Curtis is able to form a plan that gets tail-section dwellers to the front section. As the audience goes on this journey with Curtis, we see his horror as he realizes that the insects on the train are being used for the protein blocks being fed to the tail-section passengers.
Three Student Perspectives on the Endurance of John Carpenter’s Halloween:
John Carpenter’s Halloween is one of the most enduring American horror films ever made because of the sense of obscurity, mystery, and abnormality we receive from the character of Michael Myers. When first introduced to Myers, we are not sure of his past or why he behaves in the way that he does. We do not understand why he kills his sister or what his motives are for killing others. As the audience, we try to answer those questions ourselves and comprehend what is happening. In my case, I would argue that Myers was feeling some kind of grudge toward his sister for not taking care of him properly and not providing him attention. His sister was attending to her boyfriend and not him, which angered him tremendously, making him want to kill her.
If we look at the situation in a Freudian way, we could even argue that Myers had some kind of physical attraction to his sister. But we never really know his true intentions, and it is that type of secrecy that really captivates an audience. The use of normal, small town, teenage characters also allows for viewers to identify with what is happening, making the story more impactful. At some points it even becomes believable. A deranged stranger that hunts for his victims on a night like Halloween sounds like something that could actually happen. All this, topped off with the iconic violent scenes that spawned the usage of slash and gore in horror film, makes this movie revolutionary.
Hollywood has become very successful at making a profit. The studios have a formula that they stick to for almost all their films. While this may not be a traditional step-by-step guide, it does shape how American films are made. For example, in most movies today, there is a “good versus bad” dynamic. There is almost always a definite and happy ending. However, some of the details in this formula seemed to be challenged recently. There are a lot of changes happening because the way we consume media is going through some of the biggest transformations ever.
Television is moving from cable to online streaming and with that change comes a change in the style and quality of production. Shows like Game of Thrones and Breaking Bad are becoming more and more popular. These shows are made to look and feel like movies. They also play with traditional conventions. There is no longer a good guy or bad guy. We do not always get all our questions answered. A recent film that played with traditional conventions is Jurassic World. It took little things — like a woman running through a jungle in heels — and made fun of them to show how predictable Hollywood has become. With all this change will come new innovations. The Martian is one of those films that pushes the boundaries of what films are usually too afraid to do.
Looking at The Martian without doing too much research will make you think that it’s just another typical Hollywood movie. It has a big budget, a cast full of big stars, was heavily marketed, and is full of action. In reality, this film was breaking tradition before it even became a film. Andy Weir is the author of the novel the film is based on. When writing, he did his research to make sure that all the science was as realistic as possible. It helped a lot that he had a background in computer science and that his father was a particle physicist. The Martian shows how books are changing a lot these days as well. With no luck in getting previous work published by traditional means, Weir decided to self-publish his novel chapter by chapter for free on his website. After his novel gained some traction, fans demanded that he publish it as an e-book. It became a bestseller soon after.
Very rarely does a movie affect me so much that I find myself continuously thinking about it even several days after having seen it. The Gift is one of those movies. It’s the eerily ominous antagonist who continuously stalks the protagonists that won’t get out of my head. It’s the superb acting from the three leads who all show tremendous versatility. It’s the incredible, hauntingly ambiguous ending that I keep going back to, wracking my brain for what I believe may or may not have actually happened. The Gift isn’t perfect, but it is an original, surprising take on the suspense thriller genre from first time writer/director Joel Edgerton.
The Gift centers around married couple Simon and Robyn, played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall respectively, who have recently moved into a new home in the suburbs of Los Angeles for Simon’s job. Things seem to be going just fine for the couple early on. Simon has a great job, they just bought this beautiful new home, and the love between Simon and Robyn feels genuine. Then Gordo shows up.
Gordo (Joel Edgerton) approaches the couple at a housewares store claiming to know Simon. It’s clear that Simon has no recollection of Gordo until he gives up his name, and the two catch up a bit. It isn’t long before you’ll start to feel uneasy whenever Gordo is on screen, as even this introduction scene is a little off-putting. Although he seemed like a nice, normal guy in their first encounter, Gordo increasingly feels “off” as he begins to leave gifts outside the front door of Simon and Robyn’s house. Neither of them ever gave Gordo their address. Then, he begins to show up unannounced while Simon is at work and Robyn is home alone. On the surface, he looks and seems like a nice enough guy, but there’s always something a little off-putting about his character whenever he’s around.
Most horror films today tend to rely on their own literality as the source of their horror. Slasher films like Halloween are good films in their own right, and they do have something to say beyond their main plot, but they always struck me as taking themselves too seriously when it came to the monster.
I didn’t know it, but I wanted something more; a monster that meant something. Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook gave me that something. What, at face value, seems like a simplistic storybook horror tale turns out to be an incredibly refreshing and elegant use of the horror genre to deal with deeply human issues.